The Most Popular Poet in America : Billy Collins Analysis

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Billy Collins, acknowledged as “the most popular poet in America” by Bruce Weber in the New York Times, is renowned for his conversational and humorous style. He combines wit with peculiar yet poignant observations of daily life, as well as reading, writing, and poetry. Collins’ poems possess a captivating charm that can make any reader laugh.

Billy Collins, a highly imaginative and passionate writer, covers a wide range of topics. His talent lies in humorously transforming ordinary everyday occurrences into comedic pieces, as evident in his poems “Another reason why I don’t keep a gun in the house” and “Flames”. Through humor, he aims to inspire an epiphany in his audience and convey the speaker’s frustration in “Another reason why I don’t keep a gun in the house”.

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The speaker is evidently irritated by the incessant barking of the neighboring dog. The title alludes to the idea that if the speaker possessed a firearm, they would likely confront and eliminate the dog. However, anticipating remorse, the speaker ultimately decides against having a gun in their house. The title is undeniably attention-grabbing, adding humor and peculiarity. The repetition of the phrase “The neighbors’ dog will not stop barking” emphasizes just how maddening this dog’s behavior must be.

The poet transforms the dog’s annoyance into a fun and amusing occasion by imagining the dog as a member of Beethoven’s orchestra. The dog barks in a rhythm that is consistent every time they leave the house, resembling a poorly executed stream-of-consciousness. Collins decides to leave it that way and places the responsibility of the poem on the clever combination of the dog’s barking and the symphony by Beethoven that is being performed (Merrywell).

It appears that no sane artist would include a dog in their symphony, but the fact that Beethoven does so, and even gives the dog a solo part, demands immediate acceptance and applause simply because it is Beethoven. According to Elf, the confrontation between man and dog is typically a comedic situation where the dog usually emerges victorious. This holds true in this case as well; the dog takes control of the orchestra, the symphony, and ultimately the poem itself. The poem revolves around the disruption caused by the dog, and Collins uses humor to indicate his temptation.

Collins resolves the issue by relying on his imagination, which enables him to address it without resorting to violence. If there were a firearm in his residence, I am convinced that the dog would meet its demise. Consequently, the absence of a gun eradicates the temptation entirely. This situation can be comprehended by individuals who have undergone a dietary regimen and had someone bring home a pint of ice cream and store it in the freezer. The allure would be present and likely result in unfavorable outcomes, like straying from the diet and sabotaging one’s progress.

On that note, Billy Collins avoids the temptation of owning a firearm. The poem “Child Development” by Billy Collins showcases his delightful and playful sense of humor. It explores the growth of children and their journey towards becoming judgmental individuals, acquiring the ability to engage in name-calling. Through his poem, Collins presents a unique perspective on how children employ name-calling not only as a means of misbehavior but also as a way to comprehend the people around them.

According to Olivia Kay, a poetry analyst, the act of young children calling each other names may vary over time but remains consistent (Kay). This observation can be seen in daily life, whether it is at school or within a household. It is important to note that this tendency to engage in derogatory speech is not limited to children, but also applies to adults. Gollinger further illustrates this aspect by explaining how the poet compares the process of evolution – where prehistoric fish developed legs and adapted to walking on land – with our immersion into a world of name-calling as an inherent characteristic of human nature (Gollinger).

According to Collins, children continually come up with new insults and shout them from a low height, their little faces displaying their defiant expressions. He gives examples like “dumb goopyhead, big sewerface, and you poop-on-the-floor” to illustrate how amusing these insults can be when you consider them. Collins compares this to the banter that intoxicated individuals might engage in at a bar to rile up a foolish adult. He adds that these insults are not of the caliber that Samuel Johnson would bother uttering outside a pub, as toddlers are not attempting to devastate some pretentious Enlightenment writer. (Collins)

Some argue that kids engage in face-to-face name-calling, while adults tend to do it behind someone’s back. Olivia points out that adults are not always as direct and open as children when insulting others. Many teenagers and adults want to maintain a positive image and keep their negative thoughts about others secret. They tend to engage in less face-to-face name-calling, instead doing it silently in their heads or gossiping about it. This behavior is not intended to cause harm but rather serves as a means of expressing feelings and seeking attention, whether positive or negative. The poem portrays how children perceive adults, seeing them as tormentors or individuals seeking attention from towering giants with fancy drinks and unpleasant breath, engaging in meaningless conversation.

The portion of the poem addresses the behavior of adults and parents during a cocktail party. While children openly call each other names to their faces, adults put on fake smiles and pretend to be cordial in each other’s presence. However, once the children leave, they engage in gossip and speak rudely about one another, essentially betraying each other. The poet suggests that adults wait for the opportunity to insult one another behind closed doors, after expressing gratitude for a delightful party. Additionally, the poem asserts that people tend to direct their anger or frustration towards inanimate objects like hammers, tire chains, or trains that they barely miss. Unlike children who express their feelings openly towards one another, adults are expected to discipline children for engaging in such offensive behavior and disrespecting adults.

The speaker suggests that adults and children engage in the same behavior, but adults do it in private or when nobody is watching. The poem highlights how adults, despite scolding children’s behavior, recognize that their own bosses, spouses, and even themselves exhibit foolishness. This humorous comparison between adults and children implies that some adults never truly mature.

Collins is a unique poet known for creating a humorous atmosphere in his poems, as seen in works like “Another reason why I don’t keep a gun in the house” and “Flames”. His writing style reflects his thoughts, resulting in a chuckling atmosphere that compels readers to explore more of his poetry. (Marrywell, Jack. “Poetry analysis: Another Reason Why I Don’t Keep A Gun In The House, by Billy Collins.” Helium, 6 12 2011. Web. 3 Mar 2013.; Kay, Olivia. Poetry analysis: Child Development, by Billy Collins. Helium, 25 Feb 2012. Web. 3 Mar 2013. (“Poem Elf.” N.p.. Web. 3 Mar 2013.; Gollinger, Nikki.”Child Development.” N.p.. Web. 3 Mar 2013.

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